When a juvenile is first referred to the Juvenile Justice Department, they will be assigned to an intake officer. The primary role of an intake officer is to be an investigative agent and obtain background information on the juvenile. Some of the information collected may be the juvenile’s past history, school performance and their family situation. The intake officer will make a recommendation to an assistant district attorney as to what should occur with the juvenile’s case. The assistant district attorney will then make a decision for the appropriate course of action. The most noted courses of action are:
Supervisory Caution – this involves an office appointment with the juvenile, parent or guardian and the probation officer. The probation officer will discuss the specific issues related to the juvenile’s case and counsel with the family as a whole on steps to take to avoid further involvement in the Juvenile Justice System.
First Offender Program – this program was designed as a comprehensive introduction to the Juvenile Justice System. Its purpose is to inform the juvenile and parent or guardian of the consequences and responsibilities associated with the juvenile’s conduct as well as to share with them, the resources available to prevent future referrals to the Juvenile Justice System. It is a special program for those children who have not been through the Juvenile Justice System, but need some guidance.
Deferred Prosecution – this is a six month supervision with rules for the juvenile to follow. This involves a court appearance by the juvenile and parent or guardian. An intake officer will make a report to the judge who will be the final decision maker as to whether or not deferred prosecution is granted. While a juvenile is under this type of supervision, they will be required to report to a probation officer. Failure to comply with the rules of this agreement will result in the juvenile going back to court on the original charge.
Formal Court Action – if the charge is serious enough, or the juvenile is in need of supervision beyond what their parent/s or guardian/s can provide, a petition will be filed on the offense and the juvenile and parents or guardian are required to appear before a judge. Although it is a requirement at this stage for a juvenile to be represented by an attorney, a juvenile has the right to hire an attorney for any other course of action. If a juvenile’s parent or guardian can not afford an attorney, one may be appointed by a judge. If a juvenile is adjudicated (in the adult world known as guilty) of the offense, then one of the following dispositions may be made:
This is a period of supervision with rules for the juvenile to follow. The rules may include things such as a curfew, drug testing, no association with gang members or co-actors or other people on probation or parole, counseling, restitution fees, attorney fees, probation fees, community service and reporting to a probation officer.
Intensive Supervision Probation
This is handled much the same way as regular probation; however, the main difference is that supervision is stricter. The juvenile will face more contact with a probation officer and the curfew is 6:00 p.m. every night.
Placement outside the home is obtained when the juvenile does not respond to supervision in the home or displays behaviors that need to be addressed in a therapeutic environment.
Texas Juvenile Justice Department
If the charge is serious enough and/or the juvenile’s history requires a need for a more strict and secure environment, the juvenile may be committed to the TJJD, state’s juvenile correction’s agency. Once a juvenile is sent to TJJD, it is TJJD officials and the juvenile’s behavior that will determine how long the juvenile will stay.
Determinate Sentencing involves a juvenile being placed on probation past the age of 18 and therefore being transferred to adult probation or being placed in the TJJD and possibly being transferred to adult prison once reaching the age of 19. This is a list of offenses which may have a disposition of determinate sentencing: habitual felony conduct, murder, capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, injury to a child, elderly or disabled individual, deadly conduct, criminal solicitation, indecency with a child, criminal solicitation of a minor and criminal attempt.
Certification, also known as “waiver of jurisdiction and discretionary transfer to criminal court” is yet another option. If a juvenile is 14 years of age he/she may be certified to stand trial as an adult, if one of the following offenses are alleged: capital felony, aggravated controlled substance felony, first degree felony or if a juvenile is 15 years of age, and one of the following offenses are alleged: second degree felony, third degree felony or a state jail felony. If the juvenile is certified as an adult for a juvenile crime, he/she will be certified as an adult for any future felony offenses if committed as a juvenile.